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Europe heat toll rises to 22, floods in w.- Europe

Extreme weather hit Europe yesterday as the death toll from a heat wave in Romania, Austria and Bulgaria rose to 22. Floods in west Europe. 

A total of 15 people have now died in Romania amid a heat wave which led to five deaths in Austria and two in Bulgaria. Meteorologists say high temperatures, which could exceed 42 Celsius degrees (106 Fahrenheit d.) in the southern regions on the Danube river border with Bulgaria, might last until early next week. A previous two-week long heat wave in June claimed 30 lives, scorched thousands of hectares of farmland and plunged the country's cereal crop to a four-year record low. Authorities said air conditioning and cooling systems, working flat out, have pushed energy consumption toward levels recorded during cold winter months. Extreme weather in the form of high temperatures and heavy rain hit other countries in the region.

In Hungary, the National Meteorological Service said more local temperature records could be broken on after reaching a record 41.9 Celsius, but the weather was forecast to turn a few degrees cooler from today. Emergency services continued to battle many rest fires around the country over the weekend. The Budapest Transport Company was cooling tram tracks with water and a popular chair-lift in the Buda hills was closed as it had become unsafe after its cable elongated in the heat.

Tiny ex-Soviet neighbor Moldova, one of Europe's poorest nations, is suffering from the worst drought in 60 years, with day temperatures hovering at a record 41 Celsius. Severe storms, heavy rains and flooding across Germany left at least one person dead and 10 injured yesterday, German authorities said. An 82-year-old woman in the southern state of Bavaria drowned in her basement apartment when it was flooded.

Parts of Britain, Germany and Switzerland were left flooded Sunday, Denmark and Sweden braced for very heavy rainfall, while a tornado hit Poland. Rain caused havoc at the European Formula One Grand Prix at the Nuerburgring in western Germany with the race stopped and then re-started after a 22-minute interruption. A half dozen cars skidded out at the first corner of lap three. And in Switzerland, thunderstorms caused mudslides and floods in cantons in the country's centre for a third day.

Parts of the English Midlands and areas to the west were left paralyzed by floods Sunday, as helicopters were called in to rescue the stranded, and drinking water threatened to run out in one area. Britain's Environment Agency had issued eight severe flood warnings for the counties of Oxfordshire and Berkshire, while in Worcestershire 100 people were evacuated by helicopter as over 1,000 people spent the night in emergency shelters, reports DPA. Floods that left small-town streets accessible only by boat caused damage running into “hundreds of millions” of pounds, according to estimates by the Association of British Insurers. The flooding also caused widespread road and rail traffic disruption both in directly affected areas and beyond, where services could not reach final destinations. Environment Secretary Hilary Benn told a BBC interviewer: “This was very, very intense rainfall, with five inches in 24 hours in some areas, even some of the best defences are going to be overwhelmed.”

Meanwhile the rest of Europe also saw extreme weather conditions, some of a very different kind. Germany had torrential rain that caused flooding in parts of the country early Sunday. A state of disaster was declared in two regions of the southern state of Bavaria close to the city of Nuremberg. Police said choked streams burst their banks and the waters, in many places a meter and a half deep, invaded homes and caused underground home-heating oil tanks in yards to float free of the soil. The flooding, only 48 hours after an earlier round of downpours in the area, cut Germany's Autobahn 73 for several hours and stranded hundreds of motorists. They had to be taken to safety by firefighters, leaving their cars on the highway. The water also washed out the railway line between the cities of Erlangen and Bamberg.

Further south in Switzerland, thunderstorms lashed the Swiss capital Berne Saturday evening, causing landslips and flooding low-lying homes. A main highway near Interlaken was blocked by a slip and a rail link was cut. The national weather services in Denmark and Sweden have issued warnings of heavy rainfall that could cause flooding in several regions. ((gulf-daily-news.com, khabrein.info)